The Phillies need to restock their farm system but could choose to "buy" at the trade deadline.
For all 30 MLB teams, questions must be answered before a plan of action is put into motion for the weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Are they "buyers" or "sellers"? And if they're "sellers," do they shop any valuable players in an effort to improve the team down the road? Are there young players who would benefit from regular playing time in the case of a veteran player being traded?
If "buying," are they close enough to being a legitimate World Series contender where they should go all out and potentially mortgage the future by trading top prospects to acquire an impact player? Do they stand pat and risk missing the playoffs because they weren't aggressive enough on the trade market?
These decisions can take on extra significance for certain teams, for several reasons. Here are five teams with the most on the line at the 2013 trade deadline.
The honeymoon is close to being over. The third year of the Theo Epstein regime will begin this offseason, and any roster moves made with an eye toward the future will likely end at the trade deadline.
Trading Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg and possibly Alfonso Soriano (pictured), Nate Schierholtz and Dioner Navarro for young talent that can help the Cubs in the future is completely acceptable. The Cubs fanbase understood that the rebuilding process would take time. But after two losing seasons—I'm assuming 2013 will result in a losing season, as they're currently 41-49—the front office must build a winning ballclub in 2014 or the fans won't be as forgiving.
General manager Jed Hoyer will have a chance to flip Garza, who is the top starting pitcher available on the trade market, for no less than two very good prospects who can help the big league club in the near future. The other aforementioned players could bring back some mid-level prospects to improve the depth of a farm system that has elite talent at the top but is thin overall.
For a team that expects to contend year in and year out, this could be one of the Cubs' last chances to trade veterans for prospects. Hoyer could make his mark by bringing in some talent that can help the team win a championship a few years down the road.
General manager Dayton Moore got the go-ahead to completely revamp his starting rotation this offseason, acquiring Ervin Santana, James Shields and Wade Davis after re-signing Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year deal. When it was all said and done, he had added approximately $30 million to the Royals' 2013 payroll and traded away top prospect Wil Myers and a few others.
So you think they're giving up this soon?
Not a chance. They're not playing great, but they're still in contention at 43-46 and six games back in the division. And unlike 2012, they're getting solid starting pitching on a consistent basis and have a better chance to stick around.
It's obvious that the upgrades from the past offseason weren't enough, though. Moore needs to do whatever possible prior to the deadline to build some momentum by acquiring an impact hitter to add to a young, inconsistent lineup.
Whether it's acquiring a second baseman like Chase Utley or a right fielder like Nate Schierholtz, the Royals need to continue to show their very frustrated fanbase that they're committed to winning. Otherwise, the patience that was being preached when the farm system was so highly touted will officially run out.
The last time the Yankees didn't make the playoffs was in 2008. Before that, they had reached the postseason in 13 consecutive seasons. As you can imagine, Yankees fans are very spoiled. And even in a year where everything imaginable is going wrong, they're still 50-42 and only 2.5 games back of a playoff spot.
But this roster can't seem to get healthy; it's amazing that they've held up for this long. For them to remain in contention, they're going to need help, and relying on the return of aging veterans from injury might not be the best strategy.
General manager Brian Cashman did an excellent job in providing the depth that's kept this team competitive. Now he'll need to work some more magic at the trade deadline in order to keep the party going through August and September.
With 17 playoff appearances, including five World Series championships, in the last 18 seasons, going home early in 2013 shouldn't be that big of a deal, right? Wrong. It's exactly why it's a big deal. Much like the payroll, expectations are high, and the 2013 trade deadline is a very big deal this season because the current roster just isn't going to get it done.
They're close enough to where general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. could justify being a "buyer" at the trade deadline. But is that good for the long-term success of the franchise? Help is not on the way, and the roster is aging.
With several free agents-to-be, including Chase Utley and Michael Young, who should have interest from contending teams, Amaro has a shot to make a few trades and add some talent to a very thin farm system. Or he can utilize the little talent that is left in the minor leagues to go out and add an impact bat and/or arm.
The Phillies aren't poor, so they'll always be players in free agency. But not being able to replace a veteran free agent with an impact prospect once in a while and completely relying on free agency and the trade market to restock the team will eventually catch up with you.
And it has, although they're battling to stay in the pennant race with a 46-47 record at just 5.5 games back of a playoff spot. They just don't appear to have the kind of roster that's capable of making them one of the five playoff teams standing in early October.
The fanbase will prefer that they go all out and "buy" at the deadline. But they'll also think it's unacceptable if they turn into the kind of team capable of losing 90-plus games in a season, which is what could eventually happen if Amaro's moves don't pan out.
After 20 consecutive losing seasons, you'd think the Pirates fanbase would be ecstatic if they just finished the season 82-80 and failed to make the playoffs. Don't get me wrong—it would be a major victory for a team that last finished above .500 in 1992 when Barry Bonds led the team to the National League Championship Series.
But barring an extreme free fall in the standings—they'd have to finish 26-46 the rest of the way to fall short of a .500 season—the Bucs are well on their way to breaking the losing streak.
Now, here's the thing: They're not only a winning team; this Pirates club is a legitimate World Series contender. It's understandable that they held on to their best prospects the past couple of seasons, because the team wasn't quite ready to take the next step into the playoffs even if an impact player was acquired at the deadline.
It's different in 2013.
If general manager Neal Huntington can acquire an impact bat or starting pitcher, even if it costs a top prospect like Jameson Taillon or Gregory Polanco, this team is capable of bringing the first World Series title to Pittsburgh since 1979, when sluggers Willie Stargell and Dave Parker were superstars and "We Are Family" was the team's theme song.